CEO of Sapato.ru – on how to build a business in RuNet and how to understand the Russian consumer.
“If you want to do business in the Russian segment of the Internet, you will have to move fast. If you don’t do it right now, tomorrow someone else will be doing it. There are still a lot of unoccupied niches on RuNet, but you need to ‘catch the moment’. You will have to move very fast. A year ago there were no specialized shoe stores on RuNet. We were the first, and now we are already being cloned!
The national ways of thinking are not, it seems, too great an obstacle to business development. Stereotypes can be successfully overcome. A year ago, few people believed that Russian women would buy shoes over the Internet without trying them on first. Today the company has 100,000 customers – half in Moscow and half in the regions – with an average spend of 170 Euros.
The main obstacle for online commerce in Russia is still thought to be the underdeveloped logistical infrastructure. And indeed it is. But that‘s no excuse to do nothing. We taught the courier service not only to deliver shoes quickly and on time, but also to give buyers the opportunity to try them on and return them if necessary. That made life much easier (and cheaper) for everyone – both for the seller and the buyer.
When we opened for business, we saw only online shops as our competitors – those that will come after us (we had no doubts that this would happen, and it did!) But it turned out that the offline chains also saw us as competitors. What does this tell us? They fear that their customers will gradually move over to buying online, which means that online commerce in Russia has a great future. One of the main „drivers“ is the pace of our lives and our lack of free time. You could spend the whole day off going around five stores in different parts of the city, or go online, where one site has everything you could want, and spend 15 minutes on the choice and checkout?
It is predicted that over the next year the growth rate in the Russian Internet market will overtake the whole of Europe (all European internet markets). But as they say, a holy place always attracts followers. The number of players is set to increase exponentially. From this it follows that competition will increase as well. For us, this is both good and bad. Bad, because it is much more pleasant to be a monopoly than to have to constantly battle for your place under the sun. Good, because it keeps us on our toes and helps to develop the market. The better the competition is, the harder the battle for customers will be, and the greater will be the investment in the quality of service.”
„The Russian segment of e-commerce is one of the fastest growing in the world, and online shoe retailing is a well proven business model,“ says Marcin HEJKA, managing director of Intel Capital in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. „However, success in this business requires a great deal of skill. We are very pleased with the results achieved by the Sapato.ru team in such a short time. We are pleased to join with other investors and to provide Sapato.ru with additional resources for business expansion.”This year the team at the online shoe store Sapato.ru was recognized as one of the most successful in the Russian Internet market.
It was nominated by PRUFFI Internet recruiting agency as the „Team of Success“. Commenting on the success of his team, Matthieu LANNENGRAND, Sapato.ru‘s CEO, said:“This rating only confirms what I believed to be true from the very beginning. We were able to solve one of the key objectives of any startup by putting together a team with great experience, and most importantly – motivation. It is not every day that you have an opportunity to participate in the construction of the first Russian Internet shoe store and teach everyone to buy their shoes online. And we‘re all very passionate about this process.”